Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tour Talk Three: the MOUNTAINS COMMETH!

Today (Saturday, Stage 8) was a real nice warmup as to what we will be seeing tomorrow. The last 30k having two cat-2's and a cat-3 finish, SWEET! The breakaway broke-down and the lone Frenchman Blel Kadri (riding for AG2R) pulled away from Sylvian Chauvenell and then held off him AND the peleton for the summit finish. It was beautiful! And back at the front of the peleton Saxo Tinkoff wound it up and tore the peleton to smithereenes, with only a few able to hold onto that pace.

Alberto looked calm and collected, as did Nibali (though his team was pretty much out of it by this time). TJ was there, as was Andrew....the only man missing sadly was Froome, and that indeed is something we can only wonder how it would have been. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: although I was not on his fan bandwagon, the Tour took a real blow when he abandoned. I was SO looking forward to this HUGE shootout with all these contenders this year. And other than Frrome, my dream is playing out so far.

All the way to the end Contador and Nibali duked it out, neither blinking  or showing any weakness. And TJ was there, gave it a huge dig but fell back a bit...but was still very close at the end. The only man missing in this first GC shootout (other than Froome) was Andrew, who crashed AGAIN. Although he wasn't hurt, he did lost contact with the lead group and wouldn't regain it. What a huge blow, but he remains completely optimistic and is just the breath of 'fresh air' that I've been looking for as a fan. They call him the "Pitbull" but he comes across with the exuberance of a young kid on his first bike, still enamored with the cycling experience.

You really have to hand it to Nibali and the entire Astana team...not sure but I'm guessing their holding the Mellow Johnny for an entire week thus far is a total surprise, but they are doing a QUITE admirable job of it. I'd even go so far as to say they / he is exceeding expectations every day. I'm actually becoming a fan, never having really paid much attention to him before. Not necessarily such a fan of his 'management' though...I think it's pretty much a fact that Vino rode juiced his entire career. And that Olympic Gold still reeks a bit...THAT was certainly a fluke.  But that's all in the past, and certainly HIS country/federation isn't out to erase his winning past like SOME. That he's managing a team is pretty interesting I will say though.

But enough on that. I've been loving the end of the stages when it cuts back over to Todd/Bobke and CVV, as they've been having 'guests' on the set. And as much as I love having CVV in there, it's just off the chart cool when they have Horner in. And speaking of Horner, I did him a disservice by not mentioning him being in that lead group. He may not have been on the front with TJ/Andrew/Nibbles and Contador, but he wasn't very far away. And that's pretty cool too. It may be beyond the scope of reality hoping that he could podium in this Tour, but I do hope that. But he has some FIERCE competition with the much younger GC contenders. But what can I say...he's still my man! (as well as Jensie and Fabian).

I really enjoyed Chris (Horner's) discussion tonight as to what's happening in the peleton. He was asked what the peleton was like with Froome's absence, and did it slow down things down any. He said that Saxo spun the pace up to just about as high as it could possibly go, so no...whether it was Sky or Saxo pushign on the front, it was still quite insane. He is just such an awesome speaker...he will (I hope) be GREAT as a fellow commentator in the future when he does finally retire (I hope he will do another year, same w/ Jensie).

And today (Stage 8) was only a warmup...a tiny snippet of what's to come. Stage 9 brings a ton of climbing, and even that will pale in comparison when we start hitting the HC climbs down the road. The GC shakeup today was expected and complete....all the pretenders are OUT of the top now. All that are left are those with actual ambitions for a top ten slot, and for those few a podium spot. The problem is there are only 3 spots on the podium, and we have more contenders than that. It's going to be QUITE exciting!

Hang onto your hats ladies and genelemen, cuz awaaaaayyyyyyyyy we gooooooooo!

Game ON!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tour Talk Two: into the fire

Well, we've made it to France. But first, Wow, the first four stages were pretty awesome all in all. LOVE LOVE LOVE the UK  stages...I think the Tour organizers really outdid themselves (as did pretty much all of the UK) with that idea. Just finished watching Stage 4...WOW, Froome kisses the pavement just 5k into the stage! And he wasn't even close to being at fault...the 2 guys in front of him off to the left...the guy on the far outside suddenly cut in, bumping the guy on his right and bam.. clipped Froomey's front wheel and that's all she wrote...down in an instant, and pretty hard too. I may not be on the Team Froome bus, but damn, I HATE to see that. Bike racers are tough, but tomorrow's cobbles are a different animal, and to race that hurt is bordering on inhumane. AND...watching the end as the crew was discussing things, it was reported that he went to the hospital for X rays after the stage...both CVV and Bobke explained how you DON'T do that unless you're really afraid there's something wrong, as it seriously cuts into your recovery time. He even skipped his cool-down spin session which is pretty important to clear the legs of the lactic acid built up over the last few hours of racing. And it was a pure shark-media feeding-FRENZY outside the bus, but Brailsford wasn't giving much away as I would expect...tomorrow morning will tell us the story. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect him to start as I'm hoping he doesn't have a broken wrist... but I'm guessing he will be in a great deal of agony over the course of the stage, not even counting the cobbles (much like Tyler Hamilton riding w/ a broken collar bone many years back...it took an AMAZING amount of guts and determination to block the pain somehow...if I recall Tyler said he ground his teeth down to nubs during that tour).

 As to Peter Sagan...never did find out why he was at the back of the cars with only 15 miles left to go...it appeared he might have had a brush w/ the damp pavement, but nobody as yet has affirmed that. He used quite a bit of energy getting to the front...and still was right there at the end. And Kittel looked entirely HUMAN today...if only Cav had been there.... but we'll be saying that the entire race I'm afraid. Marcel is looking to have no real competition for any normal bunch sprint stages I'm afraid. The others just aren't quite there in his league...though in a few years the kid from EuropeCar...Bryan Cocquard I think....I like him...it's his first tour, and there he is, mixing it up w/ the BIG boys. Go Bryan...I wouldn't be surprised at all if he manages to sneak in a win before this tour is over.

As to Stage 5...how do you think Frank Schleck feels? I'm sure he misses Andy in a HUGE way already...and tomorrow....well, it should be one for the Ages. I totally expect Spartacus to step up in the right moment and show us how it's done. Susie, I totally agree about the stupid team colors....Trek is almost invisible, seems they are too close to the Giant Shimano colors...but it just seems that any black and white kit I see is Giant...where is Team Trek hiding at??? At least the phosphorescent kits of Saxo stand out...I'm pretty sure the Space Station crew can peer down and watch and see where the Saxo guys are at, maybe with a set of binoculars but that's about all they'd need! I'm pretty sure if there was a night stage those guys would GLOW.

Oh, and one final thought before I hit the sack (watching le Tour always takes away sleepy time...as I get up SO early every morning)...lets just say for a moment that Froomey IS hurt....WHAT A MISTAKE NOT TO BRING WIGGO!!!!!!!!! Wouldn't THAT be the ultimate "I told you so" from  Sir Bradley! He promised to work for Froome if he went...but they left him out anyway. It could be one of the biggest mistakes a team has ever made if Froome is out. That would be IT for Sky, they might as well pack up all their bags and depart silently in the night.

With that said, and as much as I am NOT a huge fan, I truly hope he's NOT out and IS OK. I really want to see this enormous five-man showdown for the entire duration. It could end up being one of the best Tours in ages if that comes to pass. Any bets as to who is in Yellow tomorrow after Stage 5? I'm betting it WON'T be Nibbles, nor any of the other top contenders. Maybe Fabian??? I can dream!!

Keep the rubber side down everybody, and stay cool and dry out there in the heat of the summer and storms.

Cheers! GAME ON!!